Dear Deborah Roney and all ladies at AAUW – Pennsylvania,
I wanted to let you know how great of a time I had at NCCWSL. There were 700 girls from all around the country and I felt so proud to represent our state! My favorite part about the conference was all of the speakers. They included women from many different professions, all making a difference in their own way. I’ll tell you just a short summary about a few of my favorites.
One of my favorite speakers was a woman named Katie Miller who was an aspiring officer in the U.S. Marines. She struggled with keeping her sexual orientation hidden so she decided to come out publically in her uniform on TV and was dishonorably discharged. She is part of OutServe- Service Members Legal Defense Network. She played a part in having Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed under President Obama. Although many of the speakers said it is important to be patient, wait it out and compromise, Katie Miller argued that sometimes you are just RIGHT and it’s not right to give in. I loved this! Her story was the most moving and her act was the most courageous in my mind. She brought attention to a huge problem by putting her truth out in the public.
Another interesting speaker was Rachel Simmons, author of New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. She studied attitudes in girls of all ages and discovered a tendency to put themselves down as they get older. There is a “good girl” personality that is desired in America and this personality is based on what she calls a “yes- BUT” mentality. Girls are encouraged to do their best and succeed, however they should not appear very confident or take credit for their achievements. Simmons argues that this occurs in our society which encourages boys to “take up space” both physically and intellectually. Boys are told that being a leader is a good thing, and girls are not told this as often. It’s funny that Rachel Simmons spoke about this idea (which I always thought was my own): there are only two types of girls- a good girl or a bitch. She says this is because being an outspoken leader is unfortunately looked at as being negative in women, even though it is desired in men. I think Rachel Simmons inspired many girls at the conference to be themselves and not be afraid.
The last speaker I’ll mention is Nina Godiwalla, CEO of MindWorks which provides leadership and diversity training to major companies around the world. She has a book called Suits: A Woman on Wall Street about her story. She started her career by convincing a recruiter from Morgan-Stanley to hire her for an internship on Wall Street when she was a freshman in college. After a while they accepted her and she was the only person her age working on Wall Street. She succeeded with flying colors and got offered a job working with top CEOs of American businesses. After all of this, Nina Godiwalla’s Indian family was crushed when she decided it wasn’t for her, she wouldn’t get an MBA (at any college she would choose with this resume) but instead studied creative writing at Dartmouth. She said that she does not regret her path, and you do not need to have a perfectly straight path. She explains that when you have a random desire/interest, this is a lot of times what you’ll end up excelling at. She has written multiple books and inspired other women and immigrants that they can succeed in careers not traditionally held by minorities. Nina works on business leadership councils and is mainly a public speaker- which she says her family does not approve of as a career but is what she finds the most influential and important.
There are many common themes I see in the leaders and workshops at NCCWSL. One is the non-linear path. Countless professional women urge that you should not be afraid to stray from the path and try new things. Showing that you are willing to experience different areas or challenge yourself is a strength. Another lesson I heard was from Donne Shalala, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human services. She said that networking is key, “never have lunch at your desk… even if you bring a bagged lunch you should eat with others.” She also added that it is important to have a sense of humor because when you try things that do not go as planned or are nervous to network it is much easier to laugh about it afterward. Finally wise words from Ritu Sharma, President of Women Thrive Worldwide, “Your leadership is only as good as those you inspire…and be humble because the more you give power to others, the more powerful you become.” As you can see it was very easy to take away important messages from listening to these women.
In addition to the speakers, I was able to choose the workshops that I wanted to do such as Jobs in Politics, Elect Her: encouraging women to run, Kicking Butt Self Defense, and my favorite Go Fish: how to catch and keep financial contributors. Many of the workshops included real tips and advice that I can use for my future. I did learn new things and get new ideas about how to narrow down my interests into possible paths, but was also inspired by each woman saying it is a good thing to try many things! The graduate fair was helpful and I have decided that it is a goal of mine to eventually attend George Washington University for a Masters Degree. All around NCCWSL gave me ideas, lessons, and inspiration to keep learning and growing as a “University Woman” and I would like to thank you ladies at AAUW for allowing me to experience it!
Please let me know any ways I can stay involved with the organization.